Last time I parted from the orphanage, Dani fare-welled me with a joyous ciao while playing noisily with the other kids. I did not dare to tell him that this time I would be away for a longer period, which disquieted my departing mood. During my last night in Addis, I could not prevent thinking about it and so I was determined to make it up to Dani. I would return with a genuine surprise.
My journey from mild weather Ethiopia to Arctic Circle temperatures progressed smoothly with several stop-overs, gradually adapting my body and mind to the climate and excitement. The first step on Finnish land showed the effects of global warming as Helsinki‘s inhabitants bragged on local TV about playing homeland golf instead of flying to Spanish courses. So I kept heading North, in search for proper Winter conditions that would craft my most wanted encounter with Santa.
A snow-mobile flip-over, a semi-failed telemark ski tryout, and plenty of night ski took me to the edge of Finnish Lapland, in Kuusamo‘s Winter hideaway of Ruka. In its surroundings I tried to hitch a husky sleigh ride to Santa’s condominium, to find out that I had been late for departure. I then entertained myself hanging around the husky farm, taking pictures of all Northern creatures encountered, among them, reindeers.
My tenacious camera pursue to a white reindeer ended up facing each other angrily while asking myself aloud:
– Why the heck don’t you stand still for a picture?
To what astonishingly the reindeer responded:
– Cause you are the fiftieth tourist today with the same tiresome aim!
My skeptic foolish expression provoked a noisy reindeer laughter that made me sink in my boots so deep that I felt immaterial. The reindeer then calmed down and asked me about my origins. After slapping myself in the cheek a couple of times and realizing that I was not dreaming, I told my story about Dani and the reason to travel to Lapland. Prancer, as she named herself, mentioned that she was once one of Santa’s reindeers, but presently had been on compulsory leave as Santa had decided to distribute presents around the world in airline carriers instead of reindeer sleigh. I asked Prancer whether Santa was at that time back from Christmas delivery, as well as his current whereabouts. To what Prancer replied that Santa was indeed back to Lapland, but recovering from PTSD after having to deal with low-cost airlines staff unkindness during the entire delivery period. Prancer mentioned as well that Santa had to adjust to the ongoing economy crisis and book his tickets on low-cost, and that for the moment he would not receive any visits until full health recovery, as he would not like to endanger the 2014 Christmas delivery.
Disappointed by Prancer’s information, I hit the road back to Southern Finland, hoping to figure out a plan B for Dani. While crossing the river Oulu, I decided to dip in the cold water, as many locals do, to temporarily shake off my dissatisfaction. The chilly feeling in my skin invigorated my mood and prompted a few cheers from local bathers. There were not many Spaniards plunging in the river during Winter season, and that drew the attention of a couple who were curious enough to ask about my business in town. I gave details about my adventure and they decided to compensate for Santa’s sick leave.
Few hours later, I was having brunch surrounded by locals interested in my story. The Juutinens, the Liskos, the Solins, the half-shy Lundin-Pirkolas, and the Värttö, they all decided to contribute with toys, clothes, and electronic devices that would not only provide a smile to Dani, but to many more kids at the orphanage, and as well support the institution’s administration.
I did not find Santa in Lapland, but I certainly found his spirit in the people of Oulu.
…To Be Continued